Tracey Edmonds is an absolute powerhouse. The Emmy-award-winning television and film producer has worked on some of your favorite TV shows and films including the 1997 classic Soul Food and the musical reprise of Josie and the Pussycats (2001). More recently, Edmonds has put her creative genius to work on BET’s scandalous series Games People Play as the show’s executive producer. Based on Angela Burt-Murray’s critically acclaimed book, Games Divas Play, the hit drama series follows a dynamic cast of characters including Vanessa King, played by Lauren London, who is a desperate housewife struggling to protect her family amid a web of scandalous lies. Parker McKenna Posey portrays Laila James, a struggling actress who’s fighting to break free from her traumatic past and then there’s Marques King, played by Sarunas Jackson, a successful basketball player grappling to maintain his career as problems emerge off the court.
Sounds full of drama, right?
Well, there was certainly no shortage of drama this season on the show. So many fans were left sitting at the edge of their seat with each twist and turn that developed on every episode. Now that season two is all wrapped up, MADAMENOIRE sat down for a chat with Edmonds about some of the complex storylines fans witnessed this season. The bustling TV executive also shared some of the challenges she faced with production over the pandemic and Edmonds gave insight into how she effortlessly juggles her demanding work schedule as a mom and a fiancé.
We’re thrilled to see you doing it all! From building your incredible career to raising your family, We love to see it!
Thank you so much for saying that and you know what? I tell everybody all the time that you can have it all! It’s not going to always be smooth. You’re going to have to make some sacrifices and some choices. It’s so worth it. My biggest blessings in life are my two sons and I love them so much. I was so happy to see Parker become a momma. She’s just juggling things so beautifully. She shot this season and was breastfeeding, so we had to stop and take little breaks so she could. It reminded me of when I did my first movie Soul Food. I was a brand new mom too and Brandon was only a month or so old. So I was actually producing my first movie and breastfeeding at the same time too.
We really loved the interview you did with Deion Sanders back in March where you both spoke to PEOPLE about your secrets to a long-lasting relationship. Do you have any advice to give to women who are focused on their careers, but who are also trying to find that love/life balance? You two do it so perfectly!
Well, you know what, it’s so kind of you to say ‘perfectly’ because for us, we feel like we have a crazy unorthodox relationship, but the foundation of it, first, it starts with love and friendship. He’s really become my best friend and I feel like I can tell him anything. Hopefully, he feels like he can tell me anything as well. There’s no judgment. Both of us understand each other’s lives because both of us have been through so much in our lives. We tease each other about the different chapters and how many times we’ve been married. I still tell him it’s only been once. The second time I didn’t sign anything and he always says ‘well you said I do, so that counts!’ but anyway, we have a lot of fun together and he makes me laugh.
I try to spend as much time as I can with him in Jackson, Mississippi, and supporting the Jackson State Football movement.
How was filming season two during the pandemic? Was it difficult?
We had a lot of challenges. First challenge was having to move our production from Los Angeles to Atlanta because L.A. shut down and went on serious lockdown right as we were trying to film season two. We had pre-production going and we were maybe about two weeks out for shooting season two in L.A. and then the whole city went on lockdown. We had to take a really long pause. It was probably almost a year and then when things started opening up again, specifically Atlanta, was one of the first production cities to open up again so, we decided to move production there. Creatively, once we made that decision, I’m like, so we have to tell an L.A. story based on an Atlanta production? I knew that was going to be challenging, but I spent a lot of time doing a deep dive in location scouting. I went all over the place trying to find homes that looked like they would be L.A. homes, trying to find restaurants that looked like they would be L.A. restaurants. Come to find out, there’s this cute little area in Atlanta that looks just like Rodeo Drive. Then we were able to shoot at State Farm Arena for our basketball games, so Atlanta actually ended up being an amazing city to shoot with. We feel like visually, we were able to take things even higher this season and then the pandemic allowed us that extra time that we wanted to dive deeper into stories. While everything was shut down, our writers kept going. They would do virtual writers rooms and they would keep going deeper into the foundation.
Those writers really went to work because now all of those incredibly twisted web of interconnected stories came to an interesting boiling point. We loved watching social media to see everyone’s reactions to the show in real-time.
It’s so fun and it’s so nice that you say that because I tweet live every week. I’m watching Black Twitter. It’s a blessing because they are really into the characters this season and the storylines and the twists and turns. It seems like we did a pretty good job of not giving you the expected. So every time you think something’s going down one road, we kind of flip it. Social media and being on Twitter as the show is airing live it’s so interesting because I’m amazed at how fast and how clever these Black Twitter people are in terms of coming up with memes and stuff. I’m like ‘yall are quick!’ It’s a lot of fun. We all have a lot of fun together.
There was phenomenal casting this season too! Karreuche Tran knocked it out of the park with her role as Eden Lazlo.
We were so blessed to have Karrueche join our cast because we really needed a beautiful, strong, boss lady to play this Eden character. So we needed someone who was just naturally beautiful and naturally sexy, but didn’t seem like she had to try hard to do it. Didn’t need to wear a lot of make-up and big hair. She just naturally had it. It was fun for us, story-wise, to see how long it would take for an alpha male and a womanizer like Marques to resist this beautiful Eden character that came in as head of operations for his team and then how long it would take her to keep this boss lady persona on and resist a really attractive sexy head of the Vipers team when they had to interact all the time. So, it was really fun exploring that. Karrueche, as a human being, I always tell everybody she’s beautiful from the inside out. She is just an angel and a joy to work with. I don’t know if you can tell, but the chemistry that you see on screen is off-screen. Our whole cast- they hang out together! They love each other. They’re like family. It’s a beautiful dynamic. Even after we wrapped production, they all went to Miami together and hung out. So when they come to work and have to go into these characters, their chemistry is so good and their timing is so good. It’s like when one ends their line, another one jumps right in at the perfect time. I’m blessed I get to work with all of them.
Oh and Cynthia Bailey too! This was her first time acting on screen, right?
Yes! There are so many things about my work that I just thank God I get to do every day. So it’s wonderful being a producer when you get to put people that you love into your creative work and let them just rise and shine. Cynthia Bailey and I were friends. We’ve had dinner quite a few times. I have so much respect for what she’s done in her career, pre, during, and post-Real Housewives, like her supermodel career, was amazing! She’s just really smart and just a wonderful human being and Kenya Moore has been a longtime friend of mine. Even then, they were both Housewives it was kind of fun to put them into these different roles that you would not expect them to play. I think Cynthia did an amazing job playing our “Ndasia” character who’s just kind of cooky and weird. You don’t know what her motive is and if she’s being honest or if she just really believes all this crazy stuff that’s going on in the world and Kenya had a lot of fun playing Marques’ dad’s new lady.
So, what’s really going on with The Foundation? So many people have conspiracy theories online.
I will tell you that a lot of things that I am curious about or do research on in real life, comes into play from time to time in the content that I produce. I think we all know that people are always talking about the Illuminati and so there’s definitely curiosity about these ‘secret societies.’ So I was like okay, this would be really interesting to kind of explore something like that this season and how they may or may not be reaching people in Marques’ life and potentially Marques as well.
We also see Laila dealing with a difficult storyline this season with trauma stemming from her sexual assault incident. Why was that something you wanted to expound upon further in season two?
I’m a super nerd, and I’m constantly watching the news, researching and looking into everything that’s going on. In the world, society, and in life. The Me Too movement emerged over the last couple of years where we found out that a lot of men, in particular, that we thought were good guys behind the scenes were disrespecting or abusing women. I wanted to really explore that storyline through this show because that reflects what is going on in society today and in this world today. And then, behind the scenes, to have a woman who decided to be brave enough to come forward, how then she’s attacked, whether it’s the lawyers or the media, you know, they try to cast doubt on her story by attacking her character. We wanted to explore how that operates from the perspective of Laila. We hinted at it in season one that something may have happened to her in the past that she still hasn’t fully emotionally recovered from and how that could come into perspective in her relationships, dating and her trust in men. So, we thought in season two, let’s go deeper and really see what happened and how that made her who she is right now.
Right! That one scene in particular in Episode 9 where Mr. Lazlo was sitting around with his henchmen trying to figure out how to spin Laila’s story to make her seem like she’s the villain. We see that happen far too often. Poor Megan Thee Stallion is currently going through it.
It’s so disgusting to watch, you know, and to see a woman who’s already been through an emotional, traumatic nightmare, finally being brave enough to speak her truth. And then now, she’s bashed again emotionally by the media or whoever trying to paint her into a bad light to protect someone.
Is there one storyline that you really loved watching this season in particular?
You know what? I actually don’t have a favorite. I love all of them! I think Parker’s was probably our most powerful. What I loved about that storyline is that it gave her character a better depth and understanding. I think in season one, because we didn’t know much about where she came from, what happened in her life and whatever. A quick observation of her could come off like, ‘okay, well, she’s just like a groupie or she’s just like one of those little you know, cheap wannabe actresses or whatever,’ but no, in this season, we really see her stand up for herself. We see her have courage, and we now understand what happened and how that can change your perspective on life and relationships. The beautiful thing for me, going back to Twitter again, is that as our viewers learn more and more about Laila’s character, and what happened, I really see them loving Laila and really rooting for her to become stronger and stronger, you know? So, who knows if we get to season three. There’s no telling what Laila can do!
What’s going on with season three because everyone’s just bracing themselves!
I wish y’all would tweet BET and tell them know because with this show, in particular, they always wait and make us sit around and wait to let us know whether we get picked up or not. I hope there’s a season three. The way that we’re leaving things off there are going to be questions that are unanswered, so we definitely need that season three to answer what’s going to happen.
We’re sure you’re working on so many different projects. What can fans expect next?
Well, you know what the beautiful thing about the pandemic is that I got really busy. Now I’m going to be going into production on everything. I’m developing a one-hour powerful drama that’s based on a best-selling novel written by E. Lynn Harris. I don’t know if you ever heard of Invisible Life? But we are taking E. Lynn Harris’s iconic book that explores men on the down-low. It will give us a voyeuristic emotional look into their lives and why back in the 80s and 90s men felt as though they really had to hide their sexuality. It’ll show how far, even though you know there’s a lot further to go with the LGBTQ movement, we’ve come because the characters that we’re exploring in this series could not be out and open with their sexuality and really struggle with leading these dual lives and being one person during the day at the office and another person at night when you go home or go out. So, the writing on this is going to be really, really powerful. I’m also working on a couple of movies for Lifetime. There’s one called The X Files, that is about four women who have not gotten over their exes. I’m also doing a Netflix movie with Queen Latifah and Ludacris called End of the Road.